Presbytery to become Boree Log museum

The parish of St Mel's Narrandera in the NSW Riverina region is transforming its historic presbytery into a museum honouring former parish priest, the late Fr Patrick Hartigan, who was better known as the writer John O'Brien, author of the iconic "Around the Boree Log" poems.

The building will become a museum honouring the life and work of Fr Hartigan, who served Narrandera's Catholic community from 1917 - 1944 and whose pen name, John O'Brien, is known far and wide.

John O'Brien Heritage House Committee Member Joan Graham said the parish project was building momentum as the annual John O'Brien Bush Festival on 14-18 March approached.

"The Catholic community has always had a strong involvement in the festival. It's our opportunity to honour Fr Hartigan and the contribution he made to our town," she said.

"This year we're hoping Narrandera and its visitors will make a contribution of their own, as we fundraise for the Heritage House."

Mrs Graham said the presbytery currently houses Fr Hartigan's original study and writing desk, where he penned his poetry collections "Around The Boree Log" and "The Parish of St Mel's". She said the committee planned to furnish the remainder of the house in period style and display the many items gifted to it.

"We have been fortunate enough to acquire some of the original sheet music of New Norcia Benedictine priest Dom Moreno, who set O'Brien's work to music and visited Narrandera in 1933 to teach the songs to our people," she said.

"We also have a precious folder of papers and poems written by John 'Joker' Byrne, who travelled with Fr Hartigan to deliver the last rites to Jack Riley, the man from Snowy River. Vestments, photos and other artefacts belonging to Fr Hartigan and St Mel's will also be included."

Mrs Graham said while it would take time to acquire the funds to complete the newly announced project, Fr Hartigan's study would be open during the John O'Brien Bush Festival and a range of celebrations were planned.

A special John O'Brien Masquerade Ball on 3 March will help raise the much needed money to refurbish Fr Hartigan's home.

"In addition to the masquerade ball, the presbytery will be open during the John O'Brien Bush Festival and the Boree Log Cantanti will present a range of John O'Brien poems set to music there," Mrs Graham said.

The parish is also planning to hold the inaugural "'Around the Boree Log" Poetry Competition, where poets of all ages will be invited to perform a John O'Brien poem. A special Vigil Mass at St Mel's Church will also be held during the festival.

John O'Brien Bush Festival organiser, Julie Briggs, said Fr Hartigan was the fourth of nine children born to Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary Hartigan, who settled in nearby Yass.

"Close to 7000 people flock to our little town every year to celebrate O'Brien's work, and through him, the impact Fr Hartigan and his beautiful and often witty prose had on a generation of Australians," Ms Briggs said.

The John O'Brien Bush Festival won the CountryLink Inland NSW Tourism Award for Best Event in 2004 and 2005.

St Mel's to transform presbytery into O'Brien museum (Media release, 26/02/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
John O'Brien website
Parish of St Mel's
Patrick Hartigan (John O'Brien) (Australian Dictionary of Biography)



27 Feb 2007